Let's say you come across a song you really like online. Maybe it sounds like Nina Simone singing over LCD Soundsystem. Whatever it is, you love it and you want to show some love to the person who created it.
You could buy the album from iTunes, but you listen to almost all of your music these days through all-you-can-eat music streaming services like Spotify, and it's unlikely you'd ever actually listen to the actual files that you paid for. You could share the song on social media, but your reach is limited. Or you could make a point to go see the musician perform live—on the rare chance that there's a show within driving distance.
What's a music lover to do?
Developers Justin Womersley and Simon de la Rouviere are hoping you'd tip the artist via Bitcoin.
The two have developed a platform called Cheers, that's designed to let fans throw virtual coins in a tip jar for their favorite musicians, regardless of whether the artists have already set up a mechanism to accept cryptocurrency payments.
"There are moments where you appreciate a great piece of music, and in that moment of appreciation you want to tip the artist: to say thanks. A token of gratitude," de la Rouviere explained. "We ultimately feel that easily tipping creators is something people want to do. So we want to make it as easy as possible: so in that pure, small wonderful moment of appreciation, someone can extend that thanks and emotional connection."
The concept is as old as busking. Womersley and de la Rouviere just hope to reinvent it for the digital age.
The system would allow fans to send virtual cash straight to the artists themselves. Cheers would then hold the tips and work with the artists to set up ways for them to convert the money back into a government-issued currency. If the artist doesn't immediately jump on the idea and accept the funds, Cheers' developers, who are also responsible for the decentralized Internet band/cryptocurrency the Cypherfunks, plan to work with the their fan bases to convince them to do so. If that doesn't work in a given time frame, the money will be returned to the fans who made the effort.
There are already cryptocurrency tipping bots that run on top of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit,. But de la Rouviere insisted hopes Cheers will be simpler to use, since it would function as tipping platform outside of a single online community and would be fully searchable.
"Cheers will be so much more than just tipping—we want it to be a search and social layer on top of Bitcoin (and payments) the same way Google and Twitter are search and social layers on top of the Internet," he said. "We want Cheers to be an intuitive, easy-to-use way to show appreciation to anyone or anything. Current tipping services are limited to small online communities, and sometimes require creators to set up buttons, which they often do not want to do."
Cheers isn't the first attempt to use cryptocurrencies to create a new revenue model for musicians. Earlier this year, a virtual currency called SongCoin was launched to give fans an avenue to easily tip their favorite artists. However, since SongCoin is its own separate virtual currency, its going to be more difficult to convert back into a more readily usable form than a more established currency like Bitcoin.
De la Rouviere noted that Cheers doesn't take a cut of any of the payments. It passes 100 percent of tips to the artists themselves. As with many other tech startups, the developers are working at this early stage to create something that people find useful and will figure out that whole monetization thing further down the road.
The developers are hoping to begin a public beta test sometime before the end of August. If tipping musicians proves successful, they want to expand Cheers into a universal tipping app for everything everyone from journalists to poster artists.
At launch, Cheers will only accept Bitcoin because the developers want the process to be as simple as possible, and Bitcoin is the easiest cryptocurrency to convert back into fiat. I
That means if you're hoping to send a few thousand dogecoins to Snoop Lion to convince him to abandon his recent reggae kick, you're going to have to come up with a different plan.